The Contenders – LA Clippers
Does Donald Sterling still own this team ? Yes, believe it, hell hath frozen over. The Clips are championship contenders. After years of being the understudy in Los Angeles the Clippers have surpassed the Lakers as LA’s best team. With all star guard Chris Paul locked in along with burgeoning forward Blake Griffin the Cllippers now have a nucleus to build around and build they did.
The hiring of championship coach Glenn ( Doc ) Rivers was a master stroke. Rivers hails with the status of being one of the two top coaches in the league. His biggest attribute is his standing as a leader of men. Coach Rivers is a master motivator and operates best when he has world class athletes to work with. One of Rivers immediate projects is helping Clippers center De Andre Jordan reach his considerable potential as a rebounder and shot blocker. Factor in the likes of JJ Redick, Darren Collison and Jared Dudley for the needed support in outside shooting and point guard play. The Clippers appear to be on the right track for at least the next three to four years ( Or the amount of time the championship contention window remains open ). Former coach Vinnie Del Negro deserves credit for player acquisition and for turning the franchise around but in Doc Rivers the Clippers now have a coach who knows exactly what it takes to win a title.
Blake Griffin declared recently that Lob City as an identity for the team was over. He seemed to suggest that the Clippers would now display more substance versus the high flying crowd pleasing attack that has tipified the team’s style for the past season. Now of course Mr. Griffin must realize that for his team to become more substantive then his game must also become more substantive and that means more rebounds and trips to the free throw line. More than any other player Blake Griffin’s growth probably plays as big a part in the Clippers hopes than anything else. All NBA guard Chris Paul now has young and savvy shooters to augment his forays to the hoop. Jared Dudley and JJ Redick are deadeye shooters that understand the sacrifice needed to win and to maintain a positive team culture ( most notably in the locker room). Guard Darren Collision is a solid back up in search of just the right team and back up center/forward Byron Mullens is a credible outside shooter at just under 40 percent.
With a transformation to a more powerful power forward by Blake Griffin and improved defensive play from De Andre Jordan the Clips would be vastly improved because defense is a critical need. But wait, there’s more, with Doc planning to upgrade the offense into one that is more movement oriented look for a departure from that predictable mix of Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford taking turns creating off of screen roll. So far everybody is saying all of the right things and team chemistry seems good but, if Chris Paul buys what Doc is selling then the Clippers will indeed become a perennial title contender.